Ram Madhav
May 4, 2020

Nervous States – Democracy and the Decline of Reason

Author - William Daves

Just completed this interesting book. Interesting because in a sophisticated manner it tries to suggest that once-a-holy-idea of democracy is no longer a truthful institution and post-truth influence is what drives global democratic politics today.

This book is actually about the nervousness of the liberal intelligentsia over the prospects of democracies that they believed would be the dens of liberal ideology turning into bastions of national interest and mass struggles. Once upon a time the liberals used to love mass struggles. But no longer, because these mass movements are not motivated by any Utopia anymore. Globally they are a product of rising national sentiments.

While condemning what the liberals themselves coined as post-truth politics, the author also betrays a sort of helplessness saying it is not just enough to brand it post-truth but something more is needed if liberal ideals were to survive.

At one level the book is more about liberal dismissal of the present nationalist upswing in many democracies as bereft of reason; at another level it raises some very important points about the place of truth, reason etc. in our emotion-driven polity today.

Disagree with Davies’ analysis on several points, but take this book seriously to understand certain pitfalls.

Published by Ram Madhav

Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation

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